A deadly weekend attack on two villages in south-eastern Chad, possibly carried out by Janjaweed militias from Sudan’s neighbouring Darfur region, has forced at least 2,000 people to flee their homes and seek safety in nearby camps, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.
At least 65 people were killed and 70 others were wounded, half of them seriously, according to preliminary reports following the attack, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Ron Redmond told journalists in Geneva.
The killings took place on Saturday in the villages of Tiero and Marena, when armed men on horseback and camelback, as well as in motor vehicles, surrounded the two villages and began to fire at random before pursuing and robbing the locals as they tried to flee.
Testimony from survivors interviewed by UNHCR and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) indicate that the attack was led by the notorious Janjaweed militias, which have been allied to Sudanese Government forces during the brutal war in Darfur since 2003.
Survivors said the Janjaweed were repelled by local self-defence militias and Chadian army soldiers after several hours of combat, and later fled in the direction of the Sudanese border.
Mr. Redmond said about 2,000 villagers are estimated to have arrived at the Goz Amir camp near the town of Koukou since Saturday. The camp is already home to more than 19,000 refugees from Darfur.
The displaced villagers are being directed to a displacement site just beside the UNHCR-run Goz Amir camp where they can receive food, water and other aid supplies, and emergency structures have been built to shelter the most vulnerable.
NGOs are concerned about the level of malnutrition among the newly displaced, with some arrivals having spent several days without food. Others are believed to be still hiding in the bush, fearful that attackers remain in the area.
Many of the villagers who died in Saturday’s attack are being buried in a common grave today, Mr. Redmond said, to avoid the possible outbreak of disease given their rapid decay because of the high temperatures in the region. The death toll is expected to rise.
Eastern Chad is already home to about 120,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 230,000 refugees from Darfur. Some 46,000 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) are living in southern Chad.
The worsening conflict between Government forces and rebels in the CAR has led to the internal displacement of more than 212,000 people, and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is appealing for at least $5.3 million in urgent funds to provide water, sanitation, health care, nutrition, education and protection to women and children.
The CAR is one of the world’s poorest countries, suffering from decades of war, civil unrest and misrule. The mortality rates for mothers and children aged under five are among the highest in all of Africa, and less than 40 per cent of the population has access to safe drinking water. The situation is most acute in the north, scene of the majority of clashes and attacks against villages.